She was sitting in a circle with a group of other people. The first church service had just ended and now everyone had split up into their different cell groups. We made eye contact and I nodded at her to acknowledge that I had seen her. But as much as I wanted to and probably as much as she wanted to, there was no way either of us could get up to give each other a proper greeting. She had to continue with her cell group while I would continue my descent to last stairwell that would take me to the bottom to where the church was.
Within the next hour, I would find myself greeting old friends, making new ones as well as having the life, power, and strength of this dynamic church pour itself into me. One week ago I was on the verge of total exhaustion. But there I was, almost one week later going to meetings, teaching classes, attending church and cell groups all in another language. Life was being poured right back into me. God found a way for me to receive back all that I put out during a dry season in Canada.
How it works is that the cell groups go until about 9pm and then another church service begins. Knowing that Marisa doesn't stay for the 2nd church service (she goes to the earlier one at 6pm) and found an opportune moment to make my way back up the stairs to the mezzanine floor so that the moment she has been waiting for could finally happen, the moment where we would make a connection after so many months in Canada.
I'll tell you what happened in a sec but I want to take a brief pause and let you know that from this experience with her and with all my friends, I've learned alot about how Argentines deal with emotions. And it is very different from what idea of what Latin Americans are like. I think from having so much exposure to the Mexican culture, people think all latinos are dramatic and expressive with lots of hugs, kisses and tears. It may be true of the Mexicans but Argentines are a whole different breed of people.
I have to do some more observing before I blog more on this subject but for now what I will say is that they are very open and loving people and have an amazing spirit of warmth and hospitality. But when it comes to having any kind of exuberance, they at times will actually go towards the other end of the scale and be more conservative about having an huge outward display of emotions.
For example, if this situation happened in Canada and there is someone you love that you haven't seen in a long time, there might be cries, shrieks, hugging and all sorts of outwardly expressive behavior. Argentines don't feel any less or love any less than other cultures but the way that they manifest what they are feeling inside is very different. When I walked through those doors, no one was shrieking or crying or doing anything of that sort. But there were alot of raised eyebrows and I could feel people's absolutely surprise and pleasure at my being back without them having to say or do much.
Now that I've armed you with that piece of information, let's get back to the good part....my moment with Marisa. She was still seated in a circle but the cell groups were done now so everyone was chatting. She saw me and stretched out her palm towards me. I gripped it momentarily while we gave each other the traditional Argentine "cheek to cheek" greeting and then let go. I was still fearing that I was interrupting something important in her cell group so we just ended up chatting briefly and I said "Pray and then maybe we can talk afterwards". She nodded happily and then I bid her and the other people in the group a good nite and went back down the stairs.
I wasn't able to chat with her again that nite I because ended up attending the church service while she made her way home. But in that one nite along, I learned so much about the Argentine culture and how people express love and manifest feelings and emotions. Outwardly, my interaction with her didn't look any different than any other person that I greeted. Maybe in the eyes of our western culture, we would be expecting more emotional expressiveness of two friends who share a deep bond and who have been through much during these long hard months that I have been away.
But being amongst the Argentines have taught me so much about the meaning of love and that love is something that is beyond feelings and emotions. Coming from North America, we are such a feeling based society and we equate the manifestation of feelings and emotions with love and care. Feelings come and go but love is something that is solid and goes beyond the manifestation of fleeting emotions.
In the game of tennis, they have an odd way of announcing the score when someone has zero points. If someone had a score of 1-0. The announcer would announce it as "One.....love". Instead of saying "zero" or nothing" they would say "love". I researched the origin of this odd tradition and this is one of answers that was given....
There's a common misconception that the equally puzzling "love," or zero, derives from the French l'oeuf, "egg," or, by extension, goose-egg or zero. Actually, it comes from the idea of playing for love, rather than money--the implication being that one who scores zero consistently can only be motivated by a true love for the game.In the game of tennis, the value of love = 0. Zero meant that the player was in the game to play for the pure love of the game without alternative motive or selfish ambition. And trust me that even as loving as I may seem, I am not beyond selfish ambition. I knew that she's been waiting long and she's tired and her heart is longing to see me after so many months. And I cannot tell you what a temptation it was just to want to go back to the hostel after I had done the 2 hr lesson at the school. But that would have been one of the most selfish acts I could possible have done and truth be told, it wasn't even an option.
One reason I have a depth of appreciation for her and talk about her the way that I do is because she is one of the few friends from there that we beyond being a mere acquaintance and got to know me to the point where she was able to be there for me during my hardships in Canada. On any given moment, she was one I could count on. If she knew that there was a moment that I was needing extra attention, she would try and give it to me. And now it was my chance to give back to someone who has been patient and selfless.
Love isn't hugs and kisses. Nor is it shrieking, crying, jumping up and down or twirling in the air. These are emotional manifestations. I had already shown her a solid manifestation of love even before our face to face greeting. Do you know what that action was? Quite simply, I promised her that she could count on me and I would be there thursday evening and I did just that. I scored the moment that she saw that I kept my word. Love = 0.
Spare Rooms BA